While we associate mirrors with realism’s aspiration to copy material reality’s concrete details, in Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray employs them to explore the unseen workings of consciousness, a use linked to his satirical project and its interest in things as they might be. Thackeray recruits the mirror’s full representational complexity to trace the structure and content of interior life, probing the mind’s ability to compose--not only to figure forth but also to found--an alternative world.


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